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Millennial Extravagance

The Big Bang! Credit: Joe Scaglione, 1999.So, just how extravagant will some of us get this New Year's Eve? I've spent the last little while looking around for some of the most amazingly exorbitant Y2K celebration possibilities, and I've found everything from Manhattan hotel bookings to Mexican beach resorts to Medieval castle retreats. Here's a selection for those who have the time and money to welcome the new millenium with the utmost pizzazz.


Exquisitely surreal. Credit: Victoria Brooks, 1999.If you're tired of watching Manhattan's famous end-of-the-year ball-drop on TV from the middle of your old squashy sofa, and if you've got a spare $1.5 million tucked away beneath the pillows and cushions, then I've found a deal for you. Pick up the phone, call the Fitzpatrick Grand Central Hotel in New York City (1-800-367-7701), and book all 155 rooms of this new $27-million establishment. You and your 300-or-so guests can have the run of the whole building from Dec. 31 to Jan. 2. Absolutely everything will be at your disposal, including the entire hotel staff and the Irish-style Wheeltapper pub. There won't be so much as a dull moment, as hotel managers will create an itinerary of completely customized catering and events. And, best of all, at about a quarter to twelve on New Year's Eve, you can just stroll down the street to Times Square and watch the famous ball drop at your feet.

If a hotel-party sounds like your style, but your bank account is still shy of seven figures, then you might consider a slightly less-pricey affair. Of course, you'll have to relocate your party from NYC to Portland, Ore. This Northwest "City of Roses" provides a couple of options: for $175,000 you can go Italian for two nights in the 107-room Hotel Vintage Plaza with the accompanying Pazzo Ristorante; or, for a measly $50,000 more, you can enjoy the 211-room Fifth Avenue Suites and the scrumptious regional cuisine (i.e., meat-and-potatoes) of the hotel's Red Star Tavern & Roast House. For more info, phone 1-800-711-2971 or 503-417-3385, or email phyllis.steers@kimptongroup.com.

But maybe a fancy-but-packed hotel just isn't your thing. Well, it needn't be. You could opt for something both a little less hectic and a little more adventurous. The owners of Amberley Castle, a 900-year-old Norman fortress in West Sussex, England, are offering an intimate New Year's weekend for you and a few close friends - 39 to be exact. Apart from the sumptuous meals, superb wines, and traditional bevvies, daily diversions include archery, falconry, and catapult shooting. On the big night, you'll be treated to a monstrous banquet in the main hall, followed by entertainment, drinking, dancing…whatever your heart desires. This medieval millenium celebration will run you £2,500 per person, which works out to about US$4,000. Of course, that doesn't include getting there. For more info, call 011-44-1798-831992, or visit their web site at www.there.is/amberley*castle.

Then again, the English countryside is sure to be rather cold and dreary during the holiday season. Maybe you'd rather plan your celebration a little closer to the equator -- like at the tip of the Baja Peninsula in Los Cabos, Mexico. The beachfront properties of the world-class resort Las Ventanas al Paraiso, or The Windows to Paradise, are the setting for a pair of 14-day package celebrations.

Stairway to heaven. Credit: Victoria Brooks, 1999.The first possibility, called Mind, Music & Memoirs, is geared towards those who want to revitalize the mind, body, and soul in preparation for the 21st century. Nightly entertainment ranges from scintillating musical performances to stimulating lectures on astrology, astronomy, and anthropology. During the daytime, all of the resort's usual facilities are available: watersports, horseback riding, desert outings, spa, sport fishing, and golf. The main event is a gala evening of dinner, dancing, fireworks, and all-around revelry. You can choose to start the festivities on Dec. 18, 19, or 20, and costs vary from $13,300 to $84,000 (depending upon size of suite). For details and bookings, call 1-888-525-0483 from the US or 214-871-5454 from elsewhere.

The second option at Las Ventanas is THE romantic way to welcome the new century. Resort operators bill this 14-day package as The Honeymoon of the Century, and they're probably right in saying so. The cost -- a paltry $250,000 -- covers jet transportation, resort accommodations, two private cruises, and a Hot Springs safari. A multitude of other perks are included, of which my personal favorites are the daily spa treatments and the moonlight massages. Mmmm…I can feel myself unwinding already. For this package, the contact numbers are the same as mentioned above.

So, if extravagance and exorbitance are your watchwords, then these party prospects are for you. All are first-class possibilities for a memorable millenium celebration. Unfortunately for me, my accountant won't even let me fly coach.

Firework photo courtesy of Joe Scaglione - American Fireworks Mfg. Co. Inc. boom.baka.com